Zack Wheeler, Bryce Harper Should’ve Been Mets
Back in 1998, Nelson Doubleday went down the hall and told Fred Wilpon the New York Mets were going to go out and get Mike Piazza. When Wilpon brought up the injured Todd Hundley (lost for most of that year), Doubleday said they were getting Piazza.
That was the way it was with Doubleday. He made sure the Mets went out and got the best players. He was in charge when they got Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. Sure, it led to disaster with Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman, Eddie Murray, and Bret Saberhagen, but the team was always trying to bring in the best players.
Being fair to the Wilpons here, they did learn their lesson after they let Mike Hampton walk in free agency, and the team refused to go out and get Alex Rodriguez. When that 2000 pennant winner blew up with those decisions, they went out and got Omar Minaya and pivoted.
When Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez were free agents, Minaya made sure they were Mets. Then, the Madoff scandal happened, and the Mets would not bet the Mets again until Steve Cohen took over the franchise.
When the Wilpons were faced with having to sell, they hired Brodie Van Wagenen to completely mortgage the future and try to win one last World Series before they had to hand the franchise to someone else. Their big move and big salary they took on was Robinson Cano.
That was partially because Cano wanted to come back to New York, and Van Wagenen was doing a favor to his former client. It also helped the Seattle Mariners were eating money on the contract regardless of whether or not Cano was eligible to play.
That same offseason, Bryce Harper was a free agent. Harper was a player who belonged on the biggest stage. Harper loved the Mets pitching and was highly complimentary of them during the 2018 All-Star Game:
For a player that wanted to win, the Mets would have been in the conversation if the team pursued him. Instead, the Mets were set with Cano, and then they tried to sell us having no $30 million players is the same thing as having two.
With that, Harper went to the Philadelphia Phillies with him really having no other realistic suitors. Since that time, he has won the 2021 NL MVP and 2022 NLCS MVP. He has completely altered the trajectory of the Phillies franchise who is in consecutive NLCSs.
Helping Harper and the Phillies get there is Zack Wheeler. Van Wagenen tried to sell us they replaced Wheeler in the rotation with Marcus Stroman despite both pitching in the same rotation in 2019. He then went on to tell everyone Wheeler was only good for two halves of his entire career despite his being the best free agent starter on the market.
Wheeler asked the Mets to stay after he was almost traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. He asked to stay for less when he hit free agency. He didn’t want to uproot his New Jersey family making it between the Mets and Phillies for him. The Mets didn’t want him. Instead, we got Rick Porcello.
Wheeler has been a Cy Young caliber pitcher with the Phillies. He has been a postseason ace. With Harper, he has the Phillies back in the NLCS.
This never should have happened. This was Wilpon and Van Wagenen incompetence. Fortunately now, the Mets have an owner that is not going to let this type of nonsense happen again.